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the next five years

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The air on New Vulcan smelled red.

Of course, colors themselves didn't have scent. That's not what he meant. But the moment Scotty had stepped off of the transport and set foot on the colony, he’d smelled it: the iron. Its concentration was so high that it turned the soil the color of rust, and so strong it had taken a few days for his nose to acclimate. The scent was everywhere, even heavier than it had been on Vulcan.

The Vulcans were a species that would have accepted a colony anywhere, no matter the climate, but it happened that Starfleet had discovered an uninhabited world—uninhabited by intelligent life, that is—that bore several striking similarities to their original home world. The soil composition was only one of them. The temperature was another, desert-hot in the shade. Scotty took a handkerchief everywhere he went.

He hadn’t stopped sweating since he moved here. The heat was dry and unrelenting—good shipbuilding climate. The low humidity was less conducive to rust, never mind the way the planet smelled. New Vulcan was significantly colder toward its poles, which would have made for more comfortable day-to-day life, but he'd had enough of ice on Delta Vega. He bought light-colored clothes that reflected the sun and stayed indoors as much as possible, choosing early walks as his body acclimated to the heat.

The New Vulcan Science Academy had been in touch as soon as the Enterprise’s five-year mission ended. A temporary research and teaching position, the invitation had read, with the possibility of an extension if it was beneficial to all parties. Most of the academy’s scientists had been killed during Nero's attack. Ambassador Spock had imparted what information he’d brought from his reality, but innovation was essential. They must discover things for themselves. And since Scotty was an expert in his field and had been recommended by the ambassador prior to his death, even though it had been years since he’d been in a classroom, he’d found himself on a long-range transport to the new Vulcan colony at forty-three years old.

He'd never spent any time on Vulcan. The first time he’d seen it close up was the day it imploded; therefore, his knowledge of Vulcans and Vulcan culture was limited to what he’d learned from the two Spocks. And just as they were like night and day, no two Vulcans he'd met so far were anything alike. Some were more serious like the Spock he had served with, and others—old and young—had a lighter, more carefree manner. Their society was as varied as any human society on Earth, and despite the centuries that had passed since First Contact, both Vulcans and Terrans possessed an innate distrust of aliens. It was especially noticeable among the Vulcan children. They weren't as skilled at hiding their emotions. They would look at Scotty, at his pale hair and grinning face, and shrink closer to their parents’ legs, forcing their heads down, sticking their arms to their sides. Scotty couldn't tell if they disliked him or found him vulgar, or if something about him made them question something about themselves. He'd never know without talking to them, and the only people on the colony who spoke to him were from the academy.

He didn't mind it. It was no more lonely here than it had been in Starfleet after he’d learned the truth about the organization. Even after internal investigations had cleared out members with war intent, he had never been able to forget the look on Admiral Marcus’s face when he had ordered the Enterprise destroyed.

Ships were honest. Engines, nacelles, sheets of duranium—they couldn't lie. They functioned and they broke. They could kill a person if things went wrong, but they were incapable of a vendetta.

The people here didn’t lie either, but not lying wasn't the same as always speaking the full truth. He often felt eyes on him when he walked along the main street. They were wary of him—of any outsider. After what had happened to their home world, he supposed they had a right to be.

At least it was orderly here. Scotty had never been the sort of person to operate on a fixed schedule, but after five years in space, he always woke up at the same time, and when the lights went out, he closed his eyes. Vulcans kept to a similar routine. The food on the colony wasn't bad either, mostly vegetarian. It reminded him of his grandmother's cooking: simple, filling. He bought something every morning from a street vendor that was similar to oatcake, and he would eat it as he walked from his home to the academy, through the curving streets that made up the concentric circles of the First City on New Vulcan.

That was the city's name, Wuh’rak Khar—nothing sentimental like a human would have chosen. A simple declaration and quiet triumph. There were plans for other cities and infrastructure to connect them, but those plans were a decade premature. The academy complex sat at the city’s center, a shining example of the resilience of the Vulcan people. It had been built in the manner of the original; they’d spared no detail. Federation member planets had been quick to send supplies to aid in the rebuilding, and while it might not have seemed logical to an outsider, the academy's reconstruction had been prioritized during the first wave of the colony’s construction, even before the city's main streets were paved.

The academy’s engineering division was entirely indoors and kept at a reasonable temperature—a summer’s day back in Scotland. Scotty was usually the first to arrive and the last to leave, surprising a good number of academy employees the first month he'd been with them. They hadn't expected that diligence from a human, though they'd been too reserved to say so. He’d inferred it from the fascinated looks they would cast him from the doorway to his laboratory. Most avoided conversation with him unless it had to do with their work.

He was surprised that morning, three and a half months after his arrival, to switch on the laboratory lights and see a small figure on one of the stools, staring at a tablet in front of her.

“Hello,” Scotty said. He did not expect the young Vulcan to reply. So often they didn't. But she raised her head and with a very clear voice said in Standard, “Hello.”

Scotty set down his bag and mopped his forehead dry. “Not that I mind, but what are you doing in here at this hour? Do your parents work in the building?”

“My uncle.”

“I see. And does he know you're in here?”

She didn't answer, which he took to be a negative response.

“You're welcome to stay, but you should let him know where you are.”

She inclined her head once and got down from the stool, going out into the hallway without another word. Scotty set about his work, looking through the documentation left behind by Ambassador Spock. It was thorough, repeatable, but the majority required advances they hadn't made yet. The bulk of his work here was to reverse engineer technology given to him by someone from another reality. The ambassador had spent the last years of his life dictating everything he remembered, and with a memory that was practically eidetic, what he had documented spanned volumes. Scotty hadn’t been bored for a minute.

He didn’t expect the girl to come back. She signaled her return with a polite cough and he raised his eyes from the tablet in his hands, looking at her down the length of his desk. She was at most eight or nine years old judging by her size, with large, severe eyes and black hair swinging from a ponytail on the back of her head, the way Uhura often wore hers. It was a common hairstyle on Earth, but to see it here was unusual. Her clothes weren't the local style robes either, but nor were they Terran—they were loose, more flowing than either, probably coolest in the heat.

“Welcome back,” Scotty said. “I'm Montgomery Scott. What's your name, lassie?”

“Alir.”

“That's a pretty name. What does it mean?”

“It has no independent meaning. My mother did not wish for it to obstruct me.”

Scotty pursed his lips to seal off his curiosity and laid down the tablet. “You said your uncle works here. What does he do?”

“Is it true that you know Spock?” she said.

He nodded, surprised by the redirection. “Yes, I served with him for many years. Do you have an interest in Starfleet?”

“No.”

“Ah. What about ships?”

She shrugged, which was a strange reaction from a Vulcan. They usually held still during conversation. But she was young.

“We have computer models for seven proposed designs,” he said. “Would you like to see them?”

Her eyes widened.

“Alir,” someone said from the door. The newcomer was a young Vulcan roughly Spock's age, in the same austere clothing worn by most everyone at the academy. Alir’s expression did not change, but Scotty had the sense that she wasn’t pleased he had found her.

“She's not bothering me,” he said to the Vulcan. “I was about to show her some models.”

The Vulcan stepped into the room. “She left a note on my desk informing me of her location. She is not interfering with your work?”

“Not at all. I welcome the company.”

The Vulcan came to stand at his side. “You are Montgomery Scott. I am Sepek, a master scientist from the artificial intelligence department.”

“Pleasure.”

“She was my sister's child,” Sepek continued more quietly, so Alir wouldn’t overhear. “My sister raised her... freely. She is having difficulty adapting to our way of life.” He frowned minutely and adjusted his stance. “I have allowed her to take an extended leave from school. That is why she is here today.”

“You don't owe me any explanation,” Scotty said. “I meant it when I said she isn't bothering me. It's good to see someone so young interested in this kind of work.”

Sepek nodded. “I am running a series of tests. They will finish in approximately ninety-three minutes.”

“I can keep her entertained that long,” Scotty said. “I don’t teach until this afternoon.”

“Alir,” Sepek said. “I will return.” He went out.

Scotty switched on the digital modeler and Alir approached it, tilting her head back to observe the model of an Apollo-class freighter 148 meters long, with five decks, capable of deep-space travel. It could hold a crew of forty, was equipped with facial recognition and voiceprint analysis, and could travel at warp seven. The original ship, Ambassador Spock had written in his notes, had been named for a Vulcan matriarch.

“The appearance is strange,” Alir said.

Scotty nodded. “Compared to modern ships, I suppose the design is odd.” The Apollo class looked a bit like an elongated shuttle shoved through a clamshell. “It’s pretty ingenious, though, once you break it down. There’s a separation between living and working spaces, and separate life-support systems in case the ship needs to divide in an emergency. The shell has its own warp core that can be activated.”

“Is separation common?” she said.

“No, but it was necessary on my last mission.”

“Why?”

He scratched his head. “We fell under attack.”

She said nothing, eyes following the slow rotation of the model.


After that, Alir came to the engineering department once or twice a week. She was always there before Scotty arrived, sitting at the counter in the dark with a tablet lighting her face from below. Each time, she would remain for an hour before going to find her uncle.

Scotty didn't ask why she skipped school. He’d played hooky with his friends to go swimming when he’d been a bit older than she was, but skipping to follow her uncle to work must mean problems with the other children at school.

“What are you studying?” he asked one morning, a month into her visits. She pushed the tablet to him.

“Calculus?” He whistled. “I didn't study that until high school. Do you find it interesting?”

“I do not know.”

He hummed a little, thinking. “It's a wee bit old-fashioned, and the books are mainly in English, but do you see that bookshelf next to my desk?” Scotty pointed and Alir’s eyes snapped in the direction of his finger. “I brought them with me. They cover all sorts of subjects. Maybe there’s something you'd like better.”

“When will they build the ships?” she said. She looked him in the eye without blinking. Scotty scratched his head.

“Uhh...well, there's a lot we need to understand first.”

“But you could build them now?”

“Yes, if we wanted to, I suppose we could.”

“Is it not better to do what you can?” she said.

He considered it. “In this case, some might say it's irresponsible to create something we don't fully understand.”

“To claim the ability to know everything is arrogant,” she said. “It cannot be done. If we adhere to that mentality, then we should do nothing. That is illogical.”

Scotty blinked and laughed. “Aye, I’d say you’re right. Maybe it is an excuse because we are afraid we won’t succeed.”

A placid look came over her face. She lifted her chin and went to the bookshelf.

“Ah, mind you,” Scotty said, “there are fiction books mixed in as well.”

“Which ones?” she said.

“Let me see.” He came alongside her and pointed out several of the colorful spines. With long, nimble fingers she selected one with a cobalt blue cover and slid it from the shelf.

The Time Machine,” she said in accented English. “I will read this one.”

He coughed a bit of laughter. “You don’t even know what it’s about!”

“I will once I have read it.”

It had been a few years since he’d re-read anything in his collection—there hadn’t been room on the Enterprise for a proper library—but he supposed it was appropriate for a seven-year-old Vulcan. And if she was skipping school, at least it was sort of like homework.

Alir took the book with her to the counter where she usually sat. With squared shoulders, she laid the book in front of her and opened the cover. Her expression didn’t change as she began to read. Page after page, her eyes swept over the lines of text. She used three fingers to delicately lift the corner of the right-hand page she had finished and guide it to the left.

Scotty settled back into his work and occasionally glanced up to see her progress and give his eyes a rest. After an hour, she had begun to tilt her head slightly toward her left shoulder and her posture, which had been as rigid as Spock’s when she sat down, had rounded, so her face was just that much closer to the paper. By the time two hours had passed, she had reached the book’s halfway point. And when her uncle came to fetch her, just before she marked her place, Scotty thought he detected the trace of a smile.


Across the next few weeks, Scotty solved the issue of how to bend dentarium without weakening it by working with an alloy, and Alir read her way through Scotty’s bookshelf.

She came by daily now. She had stopped sitting at the counter, preferring the second chair opposite his desk. After the first time she’d mindlessly eaten the roll he’d brought for breakfast, lifting pieces to her mouth without raising her eyes from the paper, he’d begun to purchase two. A silent meal together became routine.

She was reading a science fiction book that had been published a hundred years ago when he received a message from Jim. It wished him well and let him know that Jim and Spock would be visiting the colony soon.

“When he’s here, I’ll have to introduce you to my former captain,” Scotty told Alir. “He’s as fond of reading as you are.”

She didn’t look up, but he could see the line of displeasure in her mouth.

“Ah, don’t worry. He’s very fond of Vulcans. He’s married to one.”

“You are referring to James Kirk, the partner of Spock, son of Sarek.”

“Aye, that’s the one. Do you know of him?” It was a ridiculous question. Jim’s name was infamous here because of his role in disabling Nero’s drill. Scotty put a fist to his lips and coughed. “I meant to say, have you met him?”

“I have not.”

“I dare say you will get along.” He glanced at his watch. “It’s about time your uncle will be here. Would you like to take the book with you? Finish it at home?”

She clapped the cover shut and placed the book back on the shelf. “I will resume tomorrow.”

“Aye, but tomorrow’s a rest day. I won’t be here.”

She didn’t respond.

“I trust you to take care of it,” Scotty said. “Or are you afraid something will happen to it if you take it with you?”

The flinch was minute but noticeable.

“Your classmates, do they mistreat you?” he asked.

“They are unevolved.”

“That’s quite an insult.”

“They believe that logic is the only means to achieve self-knowledge. They do not allow for other possibilities.”

“You’re awfully logical yourself,” Scotty said.

“I am forced to be.”

Before he could ask what she meant, there was a knock at the door. Sepek came into the room.

“I must work late today,” he said with a hint of apology. “Alir and I will take our lunch in the cafeteria. Will you join us?”

Scotty took a few seconds to process the request. “You want me to eat with you?”

“As you also require sustenance, it is logical we take it together. And…” Sepek looked embarrassed. “I am certain Alir would welcome the company.”

“Right,” Scotty said. “Okay. I’ll just grab my things.”

He followed Sepek and Alir to the cafeteria located on one of the science center’s subterranean levels. Despite being underground, sunlight streamed in through a series of tubes that ran up to the surface and outlined the room, so the space was as bright as day. Early mornings and after sundown, perimeter lights kept it a dim red that had taken getting used to, but now he couldn’t imagine the harsh white lights that had been installed, seemingly by some sadistic policy, in every Starfleet breakroom.

In the center of the room was a polished metal sculpture twisted into something like the infinity sign. Fern-like plants surrounded it, giving off a fresh scent that calmed the room, even when it was at capacity. No one spoke at a volume that could be heard a table away, which made conversation easy. It wasn’t unusual to see researchers from various worlds sitting by themselves with their work spread out on a table, deep in concentration. It was generally off-worlders who did that. Vulcans, Scotty had observed, tended to focus on their food and their company, and to keep work to work spaces.

They reserved a table against a long, bare wall and went to the queue. The food here was fresh, grown entirely in the academy’s hydroponic greenhouses. Today, the lunch course was some type of roasted root vegetable on a bed of spiky greens. Every bite burned Scotty’s mouth.

“Still getting used to the spices,” he said through a cough, reaching for his tea. It was dark and bitter. The Vulcans drank it ice cold and unsweetened. It did nothing to alleviate the burning sensation even though he drained the glass.

Sepek offered him a piece of his flatbread. “You will be glad for the spices in the heat,” he said.

“Tell that to my tongue,” Scotty said.

Alir coughed lightly, covering her mouth. A moment later, she excused herself and returned to the food line.

“I think she almost laughed,” Scotty said to Sepek once she had gone.

Sepek didn’t take it to be an insult. “May I ask a personal question?” he said.

“Of course. I don’t have anything to hide.”

“Why did you accept the position here?”

Scotty looked around and cleared his throat. “Between you and me, I was frustrated with the direction Starfleet was taking. When I first enlisted, I thought that everyone around me would be dedicated to exploration and discovery, but so much of what I encountered was about power. Position. I'm not saying it was all bad, but it left a bitter taste in my mouth.”

Sepek folded his hands on the table and nodded to indicate that he was listening. His haircut didn’t look as severe as usual; it parted slightly above his right eyebrow. Scotty had never really paid much attention to Sepek’s appearance, but across a table, it was easy to see the family resemblance between him and Alir.

“Anyway,” Scotty continued, “when my last mission ended, I thought about applying for another one, but on the day I was supposed to submit my application, I received the invitation to come here. I decided it was fate. I imagine you think that's foolish, but that's why I'm here.”

“I understand very well becoming disenchanted with a system,” Sepek said.

“I suppose you would.”

“You served with Spock?”

“Yes, he was my commander for five years.”

Sepek cleared his throat. “Spock and I were in school together.”

“I thought you looked about the same age. Were you mates? Em, friends?”

“We were not.”

Scotty finished the bread and cleaned his hands. “He and I didn’t always see eye to eye when we worked together, but he knew what he was doing.”

“It was no fault of Spock’s that we disagreed. I held a prejudice against him because of his heritage.”

“You don’t like humans?” Scotty said.

“It was a child’s jealousy. Spock was easily the most intelligent among us. At that age, I could not accept that someone only half Vulcan could possess a mind sharper than mine.”

“Sounds like it was a long time ago. I’m sure he’s forgiven you by now.” Scotty took another drink. “Or...maybe it’s that you haven’t forgiven yourself?”

“I have never apologized,” Sepek said. “I did not feel shame for it back then. My family was traditional. Therefore, I believed what I said was justified.”

“Why the change in heart?”

Sepek looked down. “My sister, Alir’s mother, left our family home as soon as she came of age. I did not see her for many years. She had gone to live with a radical clan that did not believe in Surak’s way. My parents disowned her. When I met her again, she was carrying Alir. She had married someone within that group—their leader. I did not tell my parents that I met with her sometimes. Alir was evacuated along with the rest of the children from the clan, but my sister and her husband remained behind so others could escape.”

“I’m so sorry,” Scotty said, understanding. “I cannot imagine.”

“My sister’s husband was called Sybok. He was Spock’s elder half-brother.”

Scotty’s eyes widened. “You mean to say Alir is Spock’s niece?”

“Correct.”

“Does he know?”

Sepek shook his head. “My sister’s marriage did not have an official record. I do not know if any besides me knows of Alir’s lineage.”

“Would you like me to get in touch with Spock?” Scotty said. “He and Jim, my former captain, they’ll be visiting soon. I can’t imagine they wouldn’t want to meet her.”

“I am ashamed that I have withheld this information for so long. I do not even know why I am telling you.”

“It’s so we can do something about it,” Scotty said. “It’ll give you a chance to clear your conscience as well.”

Sepek cast his eyes down. “I fear they will not accept her. She was not raised as Spock and I were. The immersion into a logical way of life has been difficult.”

“I think you’re underestimating Spock. After all, he’s spent a great deal of time around humans. And I can’t speak for his father, but what person wouldn’t want to see their grandchild’s face?”

“My own parents would have refused.”

“Sarek married a human. I can’t imagine he would reject her.” Especially not now, with so few of them left, but Scotty wasn’t about to say that.

“The ambassador believed as you do,” Sepek said.

“You told him about her?”

“Alir and I have only lived here for half a year. Before that, we were living in a Vulcan community on Earth. That is where I met Ambassador Spock. I valued his opinion.”

“What did he suggest?”

“He believed that his father’s reaction would be favorable but encouraged me to consult my feelings on the matter.” Sepek’s lips puckered around the words as if they were sour.

Scotty laughed. “That sounds like him,” he said. “Did he meet her?”

“Often,” Sepek said. “He also spoke of you. I had been anticipating your arrival.”

Scotty was surprised, but before he could say anything else, Alir rejoined their table with a tray of fruit. She slid a piece to him.

“Uncle doesn’t eat dessert,” she said.

“More for us then,” Scotty said, taking a bite. It tasted sort of like a plum. “I meant to tell you, we’ve been cleared to begin construction on the Apollo-class ship. Starting next week, I’ll be down in the docks a lot of the time, but you’re still welcome to use my lab as long as your uncle doesn’t mind.”

“Am I permitted in the docks?” Alir said.

“It is dangerous,” Sepek said.

“And it requires clearance,” Scotty said. “Sorry.”

She was undeterred. “How can I obtain it?”

“When you take my engineering course, I’ll escort you to the docks personally.”

“Then I will take it immediately.”

Sepek touched his lips. “Alir, you need many more hours of study before you are eligible for that course.”

“How many?” she said.

“Off the top of my head, I’d say several hundred,” Scotty said.

She stood up from the table. “I will complete them now.” Her ponytail swung as she walked away, toward the school wing, with fire in her step.

Scotty couldn’t help but laugh. “She really is Spock’s niece,” he said. “Are you sure I can’t make that call?”

After a pause, Sepek said, “I trust your judgment. Her mood has improved since she became acquainted with you. I have tried to raise Alir the way I believed my sister would. I allowed her freedom while we were on Earth, but it is different here. I am grateful to you.”

“Probably feels good to meet another fish out of water.”

“It feels good to make a friend.”

Sepek was staring straight ahead, as though he were simply making an observation, but Scotty understood the weight of his words. His cheeks were red.

“Aye,” he said, pushing a piece of fruit toward him that Alir had left behind. “That it does.”


Four years later

As she usually was, Alir was the first student in the classroom. She had adapted to traditional Vulcan robes, even though she wore the set her grandfather had given her with a certain irony. But she still refused to wear her hair the way the rest of the students did, preferring to pull it back high on her head with a bright yellow ribbon so that it hung over one shoulder. She was the youngest in Scotty’s lecture by three years, and while the older students had given her a cold shoulder during the first few weeks, they couldn’t deny that her intellect entitled her to a seat in the hall—not to mention it was well known that her family had a close relationship with the instructor.

That didn't win her any special favors in the classroom. Luckily, she was the type to welcome her own mistakes. She rarely made the same one twice.

Lecture had been in session for one Vulcan month, which meant the class would be making its first visit to the docks to see the ships being constructed. Doubling Scotty’s excitement was the fact that Kirk and Spock were due on planet later in the day. They were traveling to New Vulcan for Sarek’s upcoming wedding and would be staying for a few weeks. Jim was scheduled to be a guest lecturer in strategy and tactics. Scotty had heard his name whispered among his students for days.

When he announced it was time to leave the classroom, the Vulcan students got up and formed a silent, perfect line behind him. They did not speak as they walked from the classroom to the lifts, or in the lifts as they descended to the concourse. It served as the academy’s central hub, providing access to each of the seven towers that housed lecture halls and laboratories, and into the shipbuilding docks, which were built partially into the side of a hill. Scotty held his eyes wide for the scanner and led the class inside.

Unlike a group of humans, who would have required supervision even in their twenties (Jim was a prime example), Scotty never had to babysit a group of Vulcans. They stayed on the catwalks, touching nothing apart from the railings, and when they spoke, their questions were insightful. Within one or two years, many of them would accompany short-range science missions as junior officers.

Alir still insisted she had no interest in space, only the ships themselves. She had stopped in front of a lightweight cruiser, its hull only half in place. Her mouth was open in the way Scotty had seen people gaze at works of art.

“I feel the same way every time I see her,” he said. She nodded.

A few minutes later, he heard someone running. No one ran in the science academy, not even during emergencies. He knew without looking who the person had to be, and before he could turn his head, a heavy arm had dropped around his neck.

“Jim,” Scotty said. “You're here early.”

“Are we? That flight always seems to take forever.”

“It is the same length every time,” Spock said. “Greetings, Alir.”

“Uncle,” she said. “Uncle Jim.”

“Hey, 2.0. I brought books for you.”

She and Spock simultaneously looked at him, then away, and sighed.

Scotty nudged Spock with his elbow. “If you're trying to prove you aren't copies of each other, that didn't exactly help your case,” he said.

Jim laughed. He’d filled out a bit in the last few years and was showing the first signs of gray at his temples. Spock, on the other hand, hadn’t aged a week. But there was something different about him ever since he and Jim had gotten married—a softness around his eyes. He didn't touch Jim in public, keeping his arms clasped loosely behind his back, but he stood close enough that their shoulders brushed. As far as public displays of affection went on the colony, they might as well be draped on top of each other.

“The ship’s a beauty,” Jim said, whistling. “What's the target launch date?”

“Not for another year, year and a half at the earliest,” Scotty said. “Sepek says the AI department is still working out bugs in the computer system. He’s been working past dinner for weeks. They’re considering an emergency AI physician.”

“Weird but cool,” Jim said. “Are you going with them?”

“I can’t imagine they’d ask me.”

“What if I were the one asking?” Jim said.

“I don’t know,” Scotty said, scratching his head. “We just moved into the new house. Why, are you planning to do another mission?”

Someone’s getting restless teaching,” Jim said.

Spock let out a long breath, which was as close to a sigh as Scotty had ever heard him make.

“Do not take my words out of context,” Spock said.

“He misses the hands-on stuff,” Jim said. “Don't you get bored being on a planet all the time, Scotty? It’s so hot here. I almost fainted on the walk over.”

“I thought I would get bored, but to be honest with you, I really like it here. They're not afraid of innovation the way Starfleet can be. They appreciate the beauty of it. And the heat’s not so bad if you eat enough spices.” Scotty laughed thinking of his first year on the planet. “Also, I sort of promised Alir that she could be my apprentice when she gets old enough.”

“She could always work with you in engineering,” Jim said.

“Or I could take over your position with the academy,” Alir said with complete sincerity, as though she were not thirteen years old.

Spock raised a pleased eyebrow.

Scotty laughed. “I believe you will.”